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Garrett Felber on Fighting Prison Nation: The Nation of Islam's Challenge to Criminalization
WhenThursday, Mar. 5, 2020, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
WhereUW Bothell
Campus roomDiscovery Hall 162
Event typesLectures/Seminars
Event sponsorsUW Bothell Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies, UW Center for Human Rights, and Simpson Center for the Humanities

While historians over the last decade have expanded narratives of the civil rights movement, incarcerated people, Black nationalists, and Muslims rarely appear as leading figures. Meanwhile, the fight against mass incarceration is often described as the "civil rights movement" of our time. But, as Garrett Felber demonstrates in his new book, Those Who Know Don't Say: The Nation of Islam, the Black Freedom Struggle, and the Carceral State (UNC Press, 2020) challenging incarceration and policing was central to the postwar Black Freedom Movement.

In this talk, Professor Felber provocatively documents the interplay between law enforcement and Muslim communities, charting how state repression and Muslim organizing laid the groundwork for the modern carceral state and the contemporary prison abolition movement which opposes it. This history captures familiar figures in new ways--Malcolm X the courtroom lawyer and A. Philip Randolph the Harlem coalition builder--while highlighting the forgotten organizing of rank-and-file activists in prisons such as Martin Sostre. Felber shows that Islamophobia, state surveillance, and police violence have deep roots in the state repression of Black communities during the mid-20th century.

Garrett Felber, Assistant Professor of History at University of Mississippi, is co-founder of the Portland-based prison abolitionist collective Liberation Literacy, and author of Those Who Know Don't Say: The Nation of Islam, the Black Freedom Struggle, and the Carceral State, published by UNC Press in January 2020. The book is a stunning account of the NOI's activism against police brutality and incarceration in the 1950s and 1960s, based on impressive research. Felber is also the coeditor of the Portable Malcolm X Reader with the late activist-scholar Manning Marable and currently working on anthology of writings by the former political prisoner Martin Sostre. 

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